Partnerships and Collaboration

December 26, 2009 Columns, Working Your Creative Enterprise

By Atim Annette Oton

I am a big believer in partnerships and collaborations. My business is a partnership and I collaborate with a select list of people to grow my business. It always allows me to utilize creative ways to expand my ideas and grow my business, and most importantly, it gives me a chance to work with other people. Simply, I keep my options open.

I have been in the world of p & c (partnerships and collaborations) for a good bit of time. It started with my parents who focused me on the idea that “two heads are better than one.” That lucid lesson built the idea in my life to always see others as potential collaborators. This magazine is an example of the model. It’s become of work of art as well as passion for the collaborators here, and you feel it in the writing. As editor, I guide process by selecting the theme of each issue and some of the choices in the work that finally gets into the magazine but it is the writers that make most of the decisions in the topics they choose to cover. This partnership is a work in progress. And I salute that spirit of the process.

How does the p & c world really work? For me, it begins with fully understanding my business. Then, I look for like-minded partners to collaborate or work it. In all these searches, I focus on the benefits, first to my business, then to the potential partner. I also try and understand the potential partner’s business model — it is, after all, about trying to make things work for both parties. I develop the basis for the “contract” — a list of benefits to each of the parties and options available. It can be as easy as, I will do this, if you do that or I will give you this, if you give me that; and we both will benefit by all this.

The next step is to contact the potential partner and “strike a deal.” I reached out to the Brooklyn Public Library for the festival, as a potential partner. My goal here was clear. Reading is important to me, and I feel it is important to us as a community of Africans. I felt it important to share my passion that was handed to me from my parents – the joy of going to a library to read a book. I wanted that opportunity to be given to young people and their parents who came to the festival, in the form of a library card. The library saw this as an opportunity and joined with a collaborative spirit. Thus, a deal was struck. All I ask is that you stop by at our booth or come to our store and get an application to join the library. It’s easy, and you will enjoy reading more this summer.

Partnerships can be that simple — but most take time, and a process. One must always remain calm, lucid and open to the other party’s needs. My most difficult ones have been more about timing than the actual deal. I find that I can get the idea together and propose it, but time is always a compromising element. For instance, at the festival, I wanted to do something that I cannot yet reveal, as I will get it done later this year.  Finding the partner who would agree with the idea was not hard, but doing it for July 4-8 was difficult — after all, it is a holiday weekend.

Our partnership with The International African Arts Festival is another place that reveals the simplicity of the process. It came through a simple phone call from an individual looking out for the festival’s interest, and in some ways too – ours. They were benefits to seen and understood by both parties. The festival needed a publication, we needed a much larger venue to showcase Calabar Magazine. Thus, the basis for a partnership developed. A few discussions later, terms were negotiated and we were off. Duties were assigned and deadlines were set. And a month later, the completion of this partnership yielded the publication of this issue you are holding. The actual final act is feedback analysis by both parties of the agreement. This is critical and what we sometimes seem to forget.

What can I say about p & c? I suggest you try it this summer. There are potential partners and collaborators all around you, just select the right one and the deal is up to you.

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